Torture Photos from "Caesar"

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From the Carter-Ruck report

On January 21, 2014, the media grew abuzz with startling news - first broken the day before - of "industrial scale" torture, abuse, and murder of at least 11,000 Syrian prisoners by their government. Such claims were nothing new, but this time they were supported by actual photographs and some kind of study by professional investigators of such crimes. The unusually strong claims and noted parallels with Nazi death camps made waves, among other places, at the Geneva 2 peace conference which began in Montreaux the following day. [1]

The claims were lodged originally by an alleged defector - code-named "Ceasar" - who says he was employed by the Syrian government as a morgue photographer. Over the first 29 months of the Syrian conflict, he says he collected copies of 55,000 digital images he says show about 11,000 dead victims, all of them executed prisoners of the Syrian government. Sometime in August, 2013, "Caesar" says he stopped taking new pictures, faked his own death, and escaped with his trove, as he says, "in order to stop the systematic torture." [2] With funding from the Qatari royal family, the defector's narrative was bolstered with the hire of British law firm and a team of three war crimes prosecutors. The latter drafted a report - stamped "CONFIDENTIAL" but ultimately released on January 20th via Western Media in France, Turkey, the US, and UK. (see below) - that analyzed the photos, and passed on the back-story "Caesar" provided. The primary media reports added little to no skepticism, and political leaders have of course added none of their own as they reflexively push their well-known anti-Assad agendas.

It should be considered there are two parts to this evidence package; the actual photographs, and the alleged photographer's explanation of what they show. The 30+ images published, at least, do show systematic abuse of captive men, including signs of torture, starvation, and sometimes execution. While we cannot know how representative the few publicized photos truly are, it seems criminal abuses are being carried out in Syria, a problem that merits alarm and attention. "Caesar's" story may be true, but for all we know, many of these bodies passing through this morgue could have different true stories. For example, some of them (like the apparent Christian man in image #25 - see list here) could be of civilians hostages taken by rebel forces, executed and then dumped, and simply being documented by the government. It's only by trusting Caesar that one can be sure that's not even part of the picture.

The reasons to question or even doubt the defector's word are many, starting with the baseless claim that any code-name would protect him or his family from the Syrian government, if his employment story is true. All it really does is keep his identity secret from those he's appealing to, and suggests he may not be at all who he claims. [3] But these reasons have been ignored in a push by the powerful to indict and harm the Syrian government again, this time over distressingly ambiguous morgue photos.

"Caesar" has arguably been given more credibility than "Curveball" and "Nayirah" combined. Nonetheless, this project has proven less effective than some may have expected; throughout 2014 it continued with diminishing efforts to spur direct, perhaps military action against the Syrian government. The first release on January 20, as mentioned, complicated the peace talks starting on the 22nd. As the conflict ground on, some photos were presented to the UN Security Council in April in another fruitless effort to secure firmer action against the Syrian government. Some images plus the defector appeared before the US House of Representatives foreign policy council in late July. Then a select few images were displayed at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in October. These plus frequent media exclusives and interviews with countless uncritical echoes, as a New York Times article lamented on October 31, had so far "spurred outrage, but not action." [4]

The Basics

The Defector


Defection date: Early reports were vague, saying "Caesar" decided to wrap up photo collection and flee Syria sometime in August, 2013. It seemed possible he did so after the Ghouta chemical massacre on the night of August 20/21, anticipating trouble after that. Or, more interestingly, that he might have fled just before that incident, as if he knew that trouble was coming (from high-level contacts with whichever side was actually responsible).

Two sources help narrow down the date. The SAFMCD photos database gives folder dates, with the most recent one yet seen being August 14. A report by the Syrian Network for Human Rights, drawing on interviews with "Caesar," said "In September 2011, Caesar stopped taking photos of the victims’ bodies," which is before he started. They probably meant September, 2013, and actually meant sometime before that, because they also specify:

On 20 August 2013, Caesar decided to defect and leave Syria after he felt threatened if government forces discover that he had copies of the images he took. He also felt threatened by armed opposition groups who were not informed of his undercover work. [5]

The last part clarifies he could not have been tipped off by those groups about an impending chemical massacre and possibly a military intervention afterwards. And if he had foreknowledge of a government attack, he probably would have mentioned that. Presumably, the timing is just a coincidence.

His Family The Carter-Ruck report explains how Caesar's immediate family was smuggled out of Syria shortly after he fled. Extended family remain in Syria, which seems the main concern leading to the attempts at concealing his identity from the Syrian authorities. (details and citations forthcoming)

The Photographs

The initial announced Ceasear had smuggled approximately 55,000 photographs total, showing an estimated 11,000 killed detainees. This was the formula used in the Carter-Ruck report on January, 2014: "As there were some four or five photographs taken of each body this approximates to there being images of about eleven thousand (11,000) dead detainees" - 55,000 divided by five. However, only half of these photos were of two kinds: 26,948 provided by Caesar from his work, and an unclear number ("some 20,000") were "similar images" provided by "other people."

Human Rights Watch, in their December 2015 report, gives the total number of photos as 53,275, in two portions:

  • "28,707 of the photographs that, based on all available information, show at least 6,786 detainees who died in detention or after being transferred from detention to a military hospital."
  • "The remaining photographs (24,568) are of attack sites or of bodies identified by name as of government soldiers, other armed fighters, or civilians killed in attacks, explosions, or assassination attempts."

Further, HRW passed on the SAFMCD claim that the exam/death/hospital number system suggests over 11,000 bodies passed through this system.

ACLOS analysis so far supports the number of photos and victims, as published by the SAFMCD (6,700 is a good rounding between estimates). The implication of at least 11,000 victims also seems sound. We also note that a suggested 4,300 or so victims - 40% of the total - are not shown.

What remains in question is the provided story about how the victims in the photos all died.

Victim Possibilities: (early thoughts, still mostly relevant) keeping in mind we in the public have only seen a sliver of the images, any combination of at least these ten options might explain the body of images:

  1. Prisoners of the government, all crimes by them, no just cause (alleged serious precedent, overrated)
  2. Prisoners of the government, starved during a prolonged rebel seige of the prison (has happened at least in Aleppo, not near Damascus that we know)
  3. Prisoners of rebel forces, all crimes by them (alleged serious precedent, underrated), bodies found by government soon after death
  4. Rebel prisoners hastened to death by Government actions
  5. Civilians killed more passively (starved by embargoes by either side, etc.) collected by the government
  6. combat deaths on the anti-government side (irrelevant for clearly non-combat deaths - all seen so far)
  7. combat deaths on the pro-government side (same)
  8. Anti-government fighters field executed after combat, before imprisonment (irrelevant to starved victims)
  9. Pro-government fighters field executed after combat, before imprisonment (irrelevant to starved victims)
  10. Irrelevant: fabricated photos, staged with actors, images from another time and place, from Syria but of unrelated and natural deaths: recall Ceasaer says " "I had the job of taking pictures of all the deaths ... before and after the revolution.” [6] The first three options seem unlikely here, but with 55,000 images spoken of and only 26,948 delivered, the big number might be half-fluff, other dead or recycled images, etc. and still the other half must be addressed)

(Some categories could have sub-categories for identified vs. unknown, foreign vs. domestic, etc. )

According to "Ceasar," at least by implication of mentioning no other categories of death, the victims are exclusively from category 1. He presents a very simple, straightforward formula - the regime arrested all 11,000 of them, made them helpless, then tortured, starved, and if needed, executed them.

As told, it sounds as if he and his team only documented executed prisoners, no natural deaths among prisoners, and no other deaths among anyone. All that work may have been given to other teams, with the eventual tattletale specializing in the stuff he'd become famous for. Or perhaps he was tasked with other deaths as well. If so, he could have filtered those out, or included them to create a larger number.

Team Ceasar

(forthcoming... people with running, not passive, involvement in supporting the Ceasar project - translator Moustapha, Dr. Crane, etc.)

The Report and Media Promotion

Title: A Report into the credibility of certain evidence with regard to Torture and Execution of Persons Incarcerated by the current Syrian regime (Prepared for Carter-­‐Ruck and Co. Solicitors of London.)

The report is marked on each page "CONFIDENTIAL," but this stringest measure was waived in the interest of bringing "Caesar's" important allegations before the global public. This was done through two media outlets - CNN in the United States, and the Guardian in the UK - in what they described as a joint exclusive.

However, non-English sources were given their own exclusives at the same time, based on the "Caesar" photos. Copies had been given to Turkish news outlet Anadolu Agency prior to a Jan. 20 report. A later story explained the Caesar photos story was "a joint exclusive by Anadolu Agency, CNN and Britain's The Guardian newspaper." Anadolu may have had extra access; their report in particular spurred a request from UN investigator for copies. As AA reported January 23:

In an e-mail regarding the "Syria war crimes evidence" story published on AA website on January 20 "which the Commission read with great interest", the Commission said it would like to view those materials that support the conclusions in the case.
In response, Anadolu Agency said it is ready to contribute to the Commission’s upcoming reports about the human rights violations committed throughout the Syrian Arab Republic.
"Indeed, we have determined, based on a threshold of ‘reasonable grounds to believe’, that torture, amounting to a crime against humanity, has occurred inside official Syrian detention centres," said the Commission.

Also, somehow, Le Monde had an exlcusive before CNN and the Guardian, on January 20.

Interestingly, the Qatari-owned al-Jazeera was relegated, along with the rest, to follower status on this story. This may suggest the seriousness with which the house of Thani has approached this information offensive against "the current Syrian regime." It does not seem that media from Israel, another important foe of the Syrian government, was given any kind of early exclusive.

World Reaction


The Syrian Ministry of Justice on Wednesday denied a recent report by the British Carter-Ruck law office that accused the Syrian administration of torturing and killing thousands of detainees in government-run detention centers, the official SANA news agency said. The report is "politicized and lacks objectivity and professionalism," the ministry said in a statement after the report was firstly published on Monday, describing it as "baseless."
They didn't claim there were no photos, nor that the photos did not depict crimes. Rather:

"The report is a mere gathering of photos of unidentified persons proving that a number of them are foreign terrorists from several nationalities who had been killed when attacking the military checkpoints and civil institutions," the statement said, adding that "part of them are civilians and military personnel who were tortured and killed by the armed terrorist groups because of their support to the state."

And of course they claim it was a politically motivated operation:

The ministry said "the aforementioned law office is clearly linked to hostile sides to the Syrian Arab Republic since the beginning of the crisis in Syria." ... The ministry added that the report was published two days before the Geneva II conference, undoubtedly proving that it has a political aim and tried to undermine the efforts exerted to realize peace in Syria and end terrorism in the country. [8]


CNN's Amanpour shows Caesar tortute photos to Russian Prime Minister Medvedev.

Russia's Prime Minister Medvedev met CNN's Christiane Amanpour in his office, for a televised presentation with the photos she's certain are of crimes by Russia's ally. As the summary says:

“These are crimes, of course,” Medvedev told Amanpour at his office outside Moscow, but the case “should have firm proof legally.”
“I know there are a lot of victims, and that's very sad, but that does not mean that the existence of victims or victims in a particular place is the proof that those are the victims of the regime and not the bandits who were doing something or any other force.”
“You know, in my university where I was studying law, I was taught that until the fact of guilt is proved in court, a person cannot be claimed guilty,” he said. “We cannot say that Assad is a criminal without investigation,” he told Amanpour. “So probably this other trial should be held on the territory of Syria after the conflict subsides. It's the right of the Syrian people.” [9]


Syrian officials attending peace talks in Montreux, Switzerland, Jan. 23 could not dismiss photos that purported to show evidence of systematic torture, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said. The regime could not say that they had no connection with the photos. The person who took the photos testified in front of a group of international lawyers,” Davutoğlu said. “How can someone produce 55,000 photos if nothing occurred?”


“The regime has two paths [open to it]. Either it will step into serious negotiations or all the members of the regime will be tried in The Hague or in the International Criminal Court. One or all of these will happen in the upcoming period,” Davutoğlu said.
When Damascus does something that is revealed, some try to protect the Syrian government and put Turkey in a difficult position, Davutoğlu added. “I am surprised by those who are asking, ‘What was going on behind this?’ instead of feeling indignation after seeing those photos,” he said.


As BBC news reported, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the new evidence "underscores that it makes it even more important that we make progress [at Geneva II]. The situation on the ground is so horrific that we need to get a political transition in place, and we need to get the Assad regime out of power. ... These most recent images are extremely disturbing; they are horrible to look at and they illustrate apparent actions that would be serious international crimes, and we have long said that those responsible for these kinds of serious violations in Syria must be held to account." [10]


As BBC News reported Foreign Secretary William Hague expressed similar sentiments, telling the House of Commons: "I've seen a lot of this evidence, it is compelling and horrific. And it is important that those who have perpetrated these crimes are one day held to account." [10]

Legal Proceedings

In June, 2016, news broke of several European nations investigating or even making arrests regarding alleged war crimes in Syria, apparently wherever accusers and accused co-exist within a reachable pool of refugees.

In France, the Paris prosecutor’s office has opened a preliminary investigation into an unnamed suspect on possible war crimes in association with a huge trove of photographs, known as “the Caesar photos...

Germany and Sweden have each already arrested one refugee for war crimes - one a rebel commander, one a pro-government fighter.

Several countries, including Sweden, Germany, France and Finland, are investigating or prosecuting alleged perpetrators of grave crimes in Syria in the first attempts to seek justice for victims of the conflict which is now in its sixth year.

Fadel Abdul Ghani, chairman of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, tells them they have five cases ready for tribunals and others in the works. He says 90 percent of the alleged crimes were committed by the Syrian government. (note: this is in keeping with the SNHR's overall killing attribution in Syria (info-graphic) - 94.66% of deaths caused by the government, 1.52% caused by "armed opposition groups," and even less by ISIS, JaN, Russia, unknown, or any other faction. All according to SNHR documentation.

France's deputy U.N. Ambassador Alexis Lamek said that "in France more than 350 court proceedings in relation with Syria have been opened in the anti-terrorist courts since 2014."
He said French judicial authorities are also looking at possible criminal charges stemming from the archive of more than 10,000 photos of bodies of imprisoned Syrian rebels and dissidents taken by a Syrian military photographer who defected and now goes by the pseudonym Caesar.

Rebel groups

(Not linked to photos but covers rights abuses): Syria: Abductions, torture and summary killings at the hands of armed groups Amnesty International, 5 July 2016

ACLOS Findings


For further details and discussion, see the talk page. (To see what is hot, see recent changes))

Torture Photos from "Caesar"/Photo Timeline - a start at correlating numbers and folder dates into a usable timeline, in table format, by blamed intelligence branch.

Some work begun here has been expanded into a series of posts at the Monitor on Massacre Marketing site: Fail "Caesar": Exposing the Anti-Syria Photo Propaganda The first three parts are starting thoughts, with serious analysis starting later.

  • Part 4: The Other Half of the Photos - relating HRI findings of HRW noting that about half of the purported 55,000 photographs did not show tortured government prisoners after all. They still think the other half does, but that's open to question.
  • Part 5: Questioning the Number System - overall source for understanding the shown numbers, readin them, and thinking about what they really mean
  • Fail Caesar Part 6: Evidence the Victims were NOT Prisoners of the Government (incomplete) relates some of these points against the prevailing narrative:
  • Basis for acceptance of "Caesar" narrative (verbal accounts) is weak
  • "Caesar" himself admits "these photos" also show victims of 6 in-home massacres, and killed rebel fighters
  • A few victims show undeniable signs of medical intervention - why "torture to kill thousands," and also try to save the lives of a few survivors?
  • A small number of shown victims display advanced decay, suggesting found bodies, with an unusually low number of late finds (the rest also seem found, but with curious speed)
  • There are frequent signs of disrespect for the dead in "Caesar's" morgue/garage - is this the regime hating on its victims with "Caesar" a hapless onlooker? Or is this a sign that "Caesar," a supporter of the uprising, disliked the people he was photographing?
  • (to be filled in) scant but present clues a number of the captives were SAA soldiers

Appearances and Promotion

Caesar Goes to Congress

July 25, Pelude

Caesar Torture Christian.png

On July 25, seemingly out of nowhere, the Wall Street Journal published a new video highlighting "Caesar's" photos and the familiar story. This report identifies the "hospital 601" they think the photos were taken at (suspiciously close to Assad's palace). Thousands of corpses were processed, they note, and it's believed they were tortured prisoners - this hardly seems worth contesting. Stephen Rapp from the US State Department is shown addressing the Atlantic Council: "the Syrian government has a mania for documentation that we haven't seen since the Khmer Rouge or the Nazis." As an example he cites these photos of people burned, starved, gouged and killed by somebody, and then documented - in the thousands. Rapp doesn't even mention or seem to care if the government killed the people - it's the simple documentation that seems to upset him. The one image the WSJ video adds, over and over, is the one inset at left. We're to presume this apparently Christian man rose up against the government and it was they, not the Islamist rebels ravaging Syria, who killed him. The proof, as usual - the government wound up with the body, and documented it.

July 31, Appearance

Caesar Congress.png

Six days after that video, on July 31, Caesar appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee "under heightened security, with strict limits on press photographers and a prohibition on audio recordings of the briefing. He wore a blue rain jacket with the hood on and cinched tightly around his head to conceal his face." It was "the first time he publicly told his story since reaching the United States." [11]

As AFP reported, he gave some clues to what he was actually tasked with photographing: "I had the job of taking pictures of all the deaths ... before and after the revolution,” not just hose tortured to death by the government. “Sometimes I would come across pictures of my own neighbors and some of my friends that I recognized,” he added. “Death would have been my fate if the regime had found out I was leaking out secret information.” [6]

“What is going on in Syria is genocidal massacre,” the defector, known as “Caesar,” said through an interpreter. Mr. Assad “destroyed the country and killed his own people with no mercy.” [11] Genocide against which section of the populace is not specified, but past precedent and Qatar's commissioning suggests the guy they picked would say it's against Sunni Muslims by the "Alawite regime." Note the WSJ video (image above) gave one possilbe clue with the Chritian man who was abducted, starved, and murdered. This is sometimes done by Qatar-favored Sunni extremist terrorists in Syria.

"Poster-size enlargements" of his images "were displayed around the hearing room," Washington Times noted, as well as displayed on video screens. It was noted the photos were reminiscent of the Holocaust; in a subtle reference to that, Caesar showed his poetic side, channeling Oskar Schindler: “He who kills an innocent, it is the same as if he kills the entire humanity,” he told the lawmakers, urging them to help stop Mr. Assad. “And he who would save a single soul, it is as if he would save the entire humanity.” [11]

One moved lawmaker, Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, said afterwards “We had a responsibility to send a message to Assad that his criminal behavior would not be tolerated, but we didn’t. Unfortunately, we didn’t ... Instead, here we are a year later, and we see new evidence of the Assad regime’s torture chambers and death squads. ... Mr. Caesar is a courageous man. He has captured the face of evil through the lens of his camera, putting himself at grave risk.” [11] He's in the United States, of course, as he urges military action against Syria. Judging by the Libya precedent, those who remain in Syria - not Caesar himself - would be at grave risk if that "help" ever materialized. Thankfully for them, a Libya-style intervention is probably as unlikely now as it ever was, but this process of trying for that can be repeated, as it already has many, many times.

Caesar at the Holocaust Museum

Throughout the photo campaign, commentators have frequently have mentioned the Holocaust of World War II that the images, especially of starved victims, evoked for them. In early October it was announced a portion of the photos "Caesar" smuggled out would be displayed in an unprecedented exhibit at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. For a genocide story like this, that's the equivalent of making it on Broadway in New York for an American stage actor. As Newsweek reported on October 21 how "a handful of the 55,000 photos" was put up "on public display for the first time at the museum and on its website on October 15." Cameron Hudson, the director of the museum’s Center for Prevention of Genocide told Newsweek the photos "were more extreme than anything we [normally] show in our museum,” but as the article explains "The museum’s leadership believes the public should bear witness to what Caesar says he saw and recorded."

The Museum has this page at their website: Evidence of Atrocities in Syria This includes a video slideshow of some images, mostly published elsewhere already.

The Museum is sharing these photos with the public to document the severity of the crimes the Syrian government is committing against its own people. The former military photographer who brought these images to us risked his life to tell the world what is happening in his homeland. We have an obligation to bring that truth to light.
We also understand that other parties to the conflict, such as the self-proclaimed Islamic State, have committed serious crimes. The Museum has raised concerns about threats to religious communities in the region, and we are documenting other abuses and atrocities perpetrated in the conflict. [12]

The Museum's page also claims, incorrectly, that "the current Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad says the photos are fake." [12] They're far from the first to make this claim, but it's never supported. In fact, the Syrian Ministry of Justice - who run the prisons where these people were allegedly killed in - said the photos were real and showed "unidentified persons proving that a number of them are foreign terrorists from several nationalities who had been killed when attacking the military checkpoints and civil institutions." Another portion of those documented were "civilians and military personnel who were tortured and killed by the armed terrorist groups because of their support to the state" and/or their religion, a point Syrian officials try to avoid. [8]

There is no known evidence that photos are fake. However, circumstances and responsibility were not established. The Museum used the overwhelmingly predominant in the mass media presentation in its web page description.

A powerful rebuttal of the presentation and the Holocaust-invoking mindset behind it was run by RT Op-Edge, October 30: Using the Holocaust to Justify War on Assad by Maidhc Ó Cathail. This covers the political portions of Ceasar's support team - from David Crane to Homeland Security's former head Michael Chertoff, to Caesar's translator - the whole "evoke the holocaust" idea, and the people and groups promoting this new push with that tested and tired formula. The article is clearly animated by an anti-Israel stance, but the facts are useful and illustrate an indirect connection between the state of Israel and this "Ceasar" project, and a strong connection to (reliance on) memories of the Holocaust, to clarify the intended moral-military message.

Below is an "artist's rendition" (satire) of the Holocaust memorial exhibit by ACLOS member Caustic Logic.

Caesar Holocaust Exhibit.png

The Holocaust museum, which is funded in part by the US federal government, is displaying the photos in an exhibit called "Genocide: The Threat Remains," in a wing dedicated to genocide prevention. The photos are being projected in a loop that is also available for viewing on the museum's website. Although the Syrian civil war hasn't been officially designated a genocide, Hudson said that by displaying the photos he hopes to help end the atrocities in Syria by calling further public attention to the photos before the United Nations labels the conflict a genocide. [13]

Garance le Caisne

‘They were torturing to kill’: inside Syria’s death machine Garance le Caisne, The Guardian, Thursday 1 October 2015

I had to find Caesar. The spectacular advances made by Isis, and the growing number of terrorist attacks by its followers, were drowning out revelations about the Syrian regime’s atrocities....

The author went on to author a book in French: Operation Caesar: at the heart of Syria's death machine (trans). She talks bout it in a radio interview here, with CFPJ book profile

Human Rights Watch Report

In a move perhaps timed to influence Syria peace talks in Moscow, HRW files, from Moscow, the press release (Syria: Stories Behind Photos of Killed Detainees Caesar Photos’ Victims Identified, Human Rights Watch, December 16) for this well-timed report If the Dead Could Speak: Mass Deaths and Torture in Syria’s Detention Facilities. This enthusiastically supports Caesar's story about the photos. They spoke to relatives of 27 alleged prisoners, 37 alleged prisoners who claim they saw people killed, and four alleged defectors from the killing program who give supposed details. Nadim Houry says "we are confident the Caesar photographs present authentic – and damning – evidence of crimes against humanity in Syria.” (see also HRW video)

The press release mentions "Human Rights Watch confirmed that some of the photographs of the dead were taken in the courtyard of the 601 Military Hospital in Mezze." So did we, a year ago. As noted, it doesn't in itself prove anything - all kinds of bodies might be gathered and documented at military hospitals.

Caesar Photos CR-vs-HRW.png

Perhaps most interesting, they find that of the 53,275 photos they got, only just over half show even supposed detainees:

The report focuses on 28,707 of the photographs that, based on all available information, show at least 6,786 detainees who died in detention or after being transferred from detention to a military hospital. The remaining photographs are of attack sites or of bodies identified by name as of government soldiers, other armed fighters, or civilians killed in attacks, explosions, or assassination attempts.

The Carter-Ruck estimate of 11,000 detainees with 4-5 photos each becomes to HRW "at least 6,786." These are still probably almost 100% men, but the ones they chose to highlight in the article were the most emotive: Ahmad al-Musalmani (age 14, believed to be the youngest victim), Rehab al-Allawi (the only woman in the whole batch). These are of course among those emotively identified by alleged family members in the report.

  • Martin Chulov for the Guardian covers the report credulously. "A leading rights group has released new evidence that up to 7,000 Syrians who died in state detention centres were tortured, mistreated, or executed and insisted that holding officials to account should be central to peace efforts."
This writer has asked all the authors of the Carter-Ruck report how they failed to notice that 24,568 of the photos are of dead soldiers and members of the security services and whether they would care to comment on the discrepancy ... At the time of writing none of the authors have responded to our questions."

UN Human Rights Council

Syria 'exterminating detainees' - UN report, BBC, Feb. 8, 2016

The UN report doesn't mention the Caesar photos directly, but draws similar conclusions. Among the information it considered was "One of the earliest documented cases of death in detention is that of a 13-year-old boy, arrested during a protest in Sayda (Dara’a) in late April 2011. His mutilated body was returned to his family in May 2011." This is of course the Hamza al-Khatib story, and he appears much older than 13, and was quite likely killed in clashes in the military housing complex, as the government claimed. [14]

Geneva, 2016

On March 17, the Caesar photographs were presented in Geneva, on the even of peace talks there. [15] The exhibition organizer (Yahya Al Aridhi of the Syrian Organisation for Victims of War) said the photo victims were Syrians, Jordanians and Palestinians who had opposed the regime. "They are victims of a non-stop Holocaust in Syria." [16] Gareth Bayley, UK Special Representative for Syria, attended and said "The Caesar photos are compelling evidence, brutally and forensically documented, of the Assad regime's calculated widespread attack on the Syrian people ... Accountability must be central to a settlement in Syria." [16]

The exhibit was decided on by the Western and Saudi-backed "High Negotiating Committee" (HNC), as leverage in their negotiations in Geneva. As the Guardian reported:

The High Negotiating Committee has so far failed to lift the issue of political detainees to the same level of importance as humanitarian access. To underline their position, the opposition exhibited a selection of the “Caesar” photographs – images of hundreds of detainees held in Syrian jails that were smuggled out Syria in 2013. The event was attended by many western envoys in a show of solidarity. [17]

The Saudi-favored chief negotiator is none other than Mohammed Alloush, brother of slain Jaish al-Islam leader Zahran Alloush. Mohammed was an important founding member of JaI (earlier called Liwa al-Islam), [18] an extremist group credibly accused of gross human rights violations. Now talking peace, Alloush promises "we will consider the resumption of negotiations for an effective transfer of power" as soon as "the United States is able to force [the regime] to stop the bombing, free prisoners and allow the entry of aid." [19] He's also specified "the transitional period should start with the fall, or death, of Bashar al-Assad". [20] (a HNC spokesman has also said "The Syrian people have submitted half a million martyrs not to keep Assad in power for a longer period but in order to terminate his presence..." [21]) Syria for its part is hesitant to negotiate with a a terrorist group that "bombed embassies" and "killed engineering school students," and requested an apology for an unspecified prior statement. [22]

Alloush's group decided to use the Caesar photos in this negotiation, demanding accountability; Allosuh says “those with blood on their hands can have no part in a reconstituted Syrian army”. [23] But considering the evidence the photo victims were not prisoners of the government, [24] and in fact might have been held and killed by terrorists (report forthcoming), and that Jaish al-Islam is and was one of the most capable groups in the area, materially and morally ... his own JaI may have been the ones who killed those people.

Also: The Guardian report "The HNC claims as many as 50 prisoners are being executed per week, although the basis for this assertion is unclear." [17] This is likely extrapolated from the Caesar photos - 50 a week or 200 a month for 29 months (the total span of the photos) is about 5,800 to 6,500, or close to what the released photos show (a bit low). They suggest that same average rate continues, but it didn't even continue then. The average for the first 9 months was about 1 a week, and over 2013 it was about 1,000 bodies a month, or 5 times as bad as they estimate. (see ACLOS photo timeline page) After Caesar fled and stopped documenting, that flow of bodies might have accelerated, slowed, or stopped, depending.


  1. Geneva II Conference on Syria Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia
  2. Photos from Syria Allegedly Show Torture, Systematic KillingBy Stav Ziv, Newsweek, October 21, 2014
  3. Fail Caesar Part 1: Protecting his Identity - From Whom? By Caustic Logic, the Libyan Civil War: Critical Views, November 8, 2014
  4. Syrian’s Photos Spur Outrage, but Not Action By Michael R. Gordon, New York Times, October 31, 2014
  5. Analytical Study about the Leaked Pictures of Torture Victims in Syrian Military Hospitals: “The Photographed Holocaust” Syrian Network for Human Rights, 15 October, 2015
  6. 6.0 6.1 Syria defector in Washington shows torture photosAFP via Al-Arabiya, July 31, 2014
  7. EXCLUSIVE: Gruesome Syria photos may prove torture by Assad regime By Mick Krever and Schams Elwazer, CNN. January 20, 2014 - updated 2:59 PM EST, Wed January 22, 2014
  8. 8.0 8.1 Syria denies report of mass torture in detention centers Xinhua, via, January 22, 2014
  9. EXCLUSIVE: Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev says acts portrayed in Syria torture photos are ‘crimes’Amanpour blog, CNN, January 22nd, 2014 03:27 PM ET
  10. 10.0 10.1 US and UN express horror at Syria torture report BBC News, January 21, 2014
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Lawmakers rattled by Syria genocide horrors, call on Obama to actBy S.A. Miller, The Washington Times. Thursday, July 31, 2014
  12. 12.0 12.1 Evidence of Atrocities in Syria US Holocaust Memorial Museum, October, 2014
  13. Holocaust Museum Displays Echoes of Nazi Era in Syria Siobhán O'Grady @, 16 Oct. 2014
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  17. 17.0 17.1
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